Meg Makes a Jacket, Part II

When we last left off on our adventures, local sewist and jacket queen Beth was helping me make Simplicity #2455, a tailored jacket with a collar and peplum detail. In my last post, I detailed the muslin, cutting, and assembly stage. So let's dive into the construction!

I was previously intimidated by jackets because they require a certain set of skills. This is especially true of Simplicity #2455, which has curved princess seams, a gathered peplum, and a notched collar. However, as I learned in my session, precise sewing can help alleviate a lot of your problems.

First and foremost is Beth sewing tip #7: Respect the seam allowance. While I have sometimes been careless with 1/8" here or there, she is very careful to fully align all the seam allowances. This may seem obvious to some, but I'm the type of learner who has to really see it to believe it. On a jacket like this with lots of details, careful seam allowances help everything go together and hang correctly. I recently took the same care with another garment I was making, and it does make a big difference! 

Of course, saying to take care and knowing how to do it are two different things. So one way to ensure perfect seam allowances is to use lots of pins. Beth sewing tip #8: Stick the pins so that the head is closest to the outside edge and line of stitching. This allows you to keep the fabric in place and remove the pins with your right hand as you sew. We tried it my way with the pins sticking the other way (to the left! at first, but having the head of the pin closest to the seam line really does help prevent things from shifting. 

Then, for especially troublesome areas, try Beth sewing tip #9: Draw on your seam allowances with chalk. I know, this seems like such an EXTRA step, but it really does help you to be extra exact in the sewing process. When I was struggling with a wonky curved edge, this trick produced a noticeable improvement.

Pattern markings and notches can also help you to be more precise, which is Beth sewing tip #10: Pay attention to the notches. I previously thought that notches were just there to guide novice sewists to attach the back to the front (and consequently I ignored them), but on a well-drafted pattern I realized that they can also show you where to ease two pieces together. Where I had previously assumed that I had cut a piece too long, I now know that I should be easing it in for a better fit. To me this I now also the sign of a good pattern, where the extra little details improve the fit and function of the garment.

This particular pattern required a few different techniques for easing. On a straighter, shorter seam (like a shoulder), I learned Beth sewing tip #11: Bend the fabric pieces over your finger with the longer piece on the outside and pin in place. By curving them this way you help distribute the extra ease. It's geometry, and it works! Bend the pieces again as you sew.

There is also the issue of what to do when easing in a curved piece like a princess seam or sleeve head. Enter Beth sewing tip #12: Match the two pieces along the seam line, not the edge of the fabric. Because of the curve, there is actually a lot less ease at the seam line than the edge of the fabric, and you will have an easier time getting everything into place. Again, lots of pins help here.

Once you have your seam all sewn up, you get to Beth sewing tip #13: Clip, clip, clip! For any curved seam, it is imperative to clip into the seam allowance to let the fabric relax. You'll notice the garment hanging and behaving better as a result. In fact, we used our scissors to trim and nip at many places in the project. While I generally clip my seams, I learned to watch how the fabric relaxed after each clip, and in turn to look for more places where I could relieve a little extra tension. For curved seams we took notches out to allow the fabric to spread, while for the inner corners of the collar (pictured above) we took out wedges to reduce bulk and allow the fabric to lay flat. It seems this is one of the secrets to a perfectly notched collar.

While we had our scissors out, we also graded seams and cut out extra fabric at bulky junctions. Beth is big on Beth sewing tip #14: Trim out the bulk. We trimmed the seam allowances at bulky junctions, and graded seams where possible to reduce excess fabric.While this step is easy to skip, it helps improve how your garment looks and behaves.

At this point I still have a bit more to share, but I am currently en route to a wedding in Alaska where I'll be sporting my new jacket and some other home made duds (yup, the bulk of this post was written at 30,000 feet!). So I'll be back next week to share the rest of this project. Sorry for all the bits and pieces, but sometimes this much info can't be written all in one sitting!

See you next week with the finished garment!


  1. Useful tips, especially about matching pieces on seam line, not fabric edge

  2. I'm looking forward to pictures of the finished garment! With Beth helping you, the finished jacket is sure to be beautiful. I've admired her blog - her sewing skills and garden - for some time now, and would love love love to be able to take some lessons with her. However, not living in the same state is a bit of a problem.

    The tips have been interesting, and truly reinforce the point that little things matter. I was especially intrigued by tip #11 with shoulder seams. They are so short that I have always assumed they were the same length and so have always laid them flat on the table when pinning together and wondered why sometimes I had problems, figuring I had somehow cut the fabric out incorrectly. Now I will very carefully check the length of the seam lines on the original pattern, make sure I mark them on the fabric, and pin with fabric curved over my hand. And then, I imagine sewing with the longer side down by the feed dogs would also help in easing the fabric together.

  3. Very cool! I hope to actually see that jacket soon :) It sounds like you learned so much!

  4. Precision sewing is my weakness! But I have been paying very careful attention to seam allowances lately and it has made a huge difference. Can't wait to see the finished jacket!


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